Becoming a bicultural service with young people at its heart: New Zealand’s quest to transform Youth Justice

Gráinne Moss, Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children

The current youth justice system in New Zealand is a mature restorative justice system that has proved effective since the introduction of Youth Justice Family Group Conferencing and Police Youth diversion in 1989. We are about to make the biggest changes to that system in those 30 years.

The New Zealand Government has shown trust and confidence in the youth justice system by asking the two-year-old Oranga Tamariki – Ministry for Children to support most 17-year-olds who offend after 1 July. We agree that our system will be the right one to support them.

The number of young people in our system has dropped significantly over the last 10 years. However, we know that while offending rates for young people are reducing, reoffending rates remain high, especially for those committing the most serious offences.

Tamariki Māori (young people) are also significantly over-represented in all parts of our system. So, we also want a system that is truly bicultural and reflects a genuine partnership between Crown and Māori. Such a system will better recognise and value Māori tikanga (culture) and bring it to life in a meaningful and sustainable way.

Drawing on what we know works, and being honest about what we can do better, we have embarked on an ambitious and innovative transformation programme. This will enable a more effective youth justice practice and support model that delivers on our vision of better outcomes for all young people who offend, the victims of their offending, their families, and the community.


Gráinne Moss’ career spans over 25 years in the public and private sectors across three countries, the UK, Switzerland and New Zealand.

Gráinne is the Chief Executive of Oranga Tamariki—Ministry for Children, where she is leading a fundamental system change, putting children front and centre so that New Zealand children can flourish.

Gráinne is overseeing the upcoming changes to give effect to the Oranga Tamariki Act 1989. Part of this includes, raising the age to include 17 year olds in youth justice services and to provide more alternatives and therapeutic responses addressing their offending behaviour than is currently available. This will come into force by 1 July 2019.

Before this Gráinne spent nine years with Bupa Care Services NZ as Managing Director, and previously as General Manager Rehabilitation and Care Services.

Gráinne was awarded an MBA (Hons) in 2003 from IMD Switzerland where she was recognised as one of the top five students and presented with the prestigious Gillian Welshe Award for the outstanding female graduate.

Prior to studying for her MBA she worked at Carter Holt Harvey Forests as the Human Resources Manager and then moved to the Central North Island as the Regional Operations Manager for Forests.

Gráinne holds a BSc (Hons) in Human Anatomy and Biology from the University of Liverpool and spent the early years of her career in the UK National Health Service prior to emigrating to New Zealand at the end of the 90s.

Originally from Ireland, Gráinne is an accomplished long-distance swimmer. She is the first Irish woman to swim the English Channel and Cook Strait. She is married to Ivan and they have four children.